Demystifying the Writing Conference


Dear Cyberspace,

A miraculous thing happened this weekend. I survived my first writer’s conference! I can’t tell you exactly why I was so nervous. I think it was mostly the fact that I didn’t quite know what to expect. Going into the conference I knew three things: there would be workshops on different aspects of the writing/publishing/marketing process, I would meet a lot of fellow writers, and I would have to pitch my book to as many agents as possible during an hour long pitch slam. Ok, so I just said I couldn’t tell you exactly why I was so nervous. I lied. Now that I think of it, I know exactly why. It can be summed up in two words: pitch slam.

Let me give you some insight into this phenomenon if you aren’t already familiar with it. The hour long session is broken up into three minute intervals during which you sit with an agent and give a 90 second book pitch. With the left over time the agent asks you questions about your book and, if they like what they hear, pass you their business card along with instructions as to what they want you to send them. Requested materials range from a query letter to a synopsis to the first three chapters of your novel.

Picture, if you will, a large room lined with thirty or so tables. At each of those tables sits two literary agents with their names posted behind them on the wall. Now, picture a line of two hundred people standing outside the door to this room. These people have been standing there for, say, forty-five minutes. The door opens and they scramble frantically into the room in hope of being the first in line to sit down with one of the agents. Keep in mind that there are 200+ aspiring authors scuttling around this room and only 60 agents. So if one of the agents that you want to talk to is already taken you begin to form a line behind them. As you’re waiting in this line the clock is ticking down. Are you behind three people? That’s three minutes each. Nine minutes of time you could be talking to other agents wasted. What if you’re behind five people? There must be a reason that this agent is so popular, right? It must be worth it? Your eyes wander around the room…There’s an agent with an open chair in front of them! Should you abandon your line and go talk to him? Glances back at the agent you’re waiting for. But she looks so nice! What if she’s THE ONE? Looks back to the agent with the vacant chair in front of him. What if he’s THE ONE?!

Talk about stressful.

Anyway, I survived the experience despite my sky rocketing heart rate. I ended up pitching to six agents in all and four of them requested the first fifty pages of my manuscript! Somehow they understood me as I stammered through my pitch and decided that they like my idea! Needless to say, I left that room feeling pretty proud of myself. I’ll be emailing them my first few chapters by the end of the week.

As for the rest of the conference, it really was just meeting people and sitting in on workshops. Here are some of the sessions I attended:

  • Networking for Writer’s
  • Blog Your Way to a Book Deal
  • How to Sell Your First 1,000 Copies
  • Turn Your Readers Into Marketers

All of the workshops I attended bolded, highlighted, and underlined the importance of blogging as an author. So here I am and here I’ll stay.

More soon.




2 thoughts on “Demystifying the Writing Conference

  1. Why do agents go to writer’s conferences? Is it so that they can see the author in person to judge their ability to write a book that sells enough to make a profit? Is it to judge the authors ability to formulate a cogent oral three minute presentation thereby insuring the author is capable of writing a book that will sell enough copies to make a profit so that the agent receives their 15% commission? Is it to hear twenty or forty or sixty three minute cogent oral presentations?
    Wouldn’t it be much more efficient and productive for the agent to remain in their New York office and scan their e-mail and in a day review twenty or forty or sixty book blurbs from authors and read the sample pages to get an idea of the quality of writing that will sell enough books to make a profit? No travel expenses, hotel, meals, and all those “little people” pitching their writing in a crowded noisy room.
    No I think it is because the agent is getting PAID to be there to attract hopeful writers who PAY to go to the conference.
    It just doesn’t add up.
    Best of luck with your novel. I hope the next agent you query is the one who says, ‘I’d like to represent you.”

    Turning Final,



    1. Mike,
      You’re right. Writing conferences are definitely reminiscent of a scam. However, I did get a thing or two out of the one I attended. The pitch slam pushed me to refine and finalize my pitch and query letter. It also helped me to get over my nerves in relation to pitching my book to people involved in the publishing world. Meeting agents in person helped deconstruct the mental pedestal I had built for them. They are, after all, just people. They’re not the lofty literary gods that we sometimes make them out to be. They need writers as much as we need them. Overall I’d say I benefited a great deal from the conference but I don’t think I will be attending many more.

      Thank you for your well wishes and best of luck with your own writing endeavors.



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